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The Electoral College is a Ruthless Subversion of Democracy

By: Sheyenne White

After nearly four days of ballot counting, the United States has a new President-elect. On Nov. 7, the Associated Press called the state of Pennsylvania for Joe Biden, giving him 284 electoral votes, pushing him past the required 270 and into position to become the next U.S. President. About an hour later, the A.P. also called Nevada for Biden, giving him a total of 290 electoral votes. Yet the presidential race was agonizingly close as our anxious nation awaited.

The only certainty was that for the fourth presidential election in a row, and the seventh of the past eight—the Democratic party had secured the popular vote. Only once in the past 30 years have the American people given their support to a Republican: but three times, a Republican has been elected. Despite Biden’s victory, the disparity between the popular vote and the Electoral College has intensified anger for a system that misappropriates political power. The Electoral College awards electors to each state based on their total population; thus, the larger the state, the more electoral votes there are. There are a total of 538 electors and a candidate needs an absolute majority of electors, meaning 270 or more, to win the Electoral College.

The dysfunctionality of the Electoral College can be reduced to its unique winner-take-all approach: in which all Electoral College votes within states go to one candidate based on the state’s popular vote, rather than proportional representation. To clarify, proportional representation is a decision rule in which the share of seats won by each party is roughly equal to each party’s share of votes it received in the election: ensuring fair representation for both white and minority voters. Therefore, our country’s political unwillingness to adopt such an equitable voting framework suggests that the winner-take-all character came about because of partisan power and reinforces a rigid two-party system. Along these lines, it must be noted that because a state’s number of electors is based on their total population, not actual voters, states—operating under the powerful influence of political parties—have no incentive to enfranchise new groups of people or alleviate the difficulties of the voting process for those already eligible. Such blatant inequitable incentives expose the Electoral College as a potent force of voter suppression.

In light of the cries for racial justice that ring across the nation, the issue of race and the Electoral College demands further attention. Deconstructing the racist legacy of the Electoral College requires one to recognize that by giving all states equal representation in the Senate, the Constitution gives greater influence to rural states relative to their population. Wyoming, where 580,000 people live, gets two senators. But so does California, home to 39.5 million people. Now consider that 92% of Wyoming voters are white and 37% of California voters are white but a Wyoming voter has nearly four times more influence than a California voter. This unsettling disparity sheds light on the foundation of racism upon which anti-majoritarian institutions rest. Thus, the Electoral College and the Senate work together to subvert majority rule and give a minority of people the majority of power: threatening the sanctity of American democracy.

Nonetheless, supporters of the Electoral College argue that it protects less-populous states, ensuring that their interests aren’t overridden by states like New York and California with highly democratic concentrated urban cities. However, this argument is tired and banal to say the least. The resilience of the current system reflects the intent to protect and preserve the power of conservative states through anti-majoritarian institutions like the Electoral College and the U.S Senate. The 2020 election reveals the Electoral College’s part in upholding white supremacy by disadvantaging large subsets of the electorate—particularly Black and Latinx voters, whose votes are often overpowered by the will of electors.

With this in mind, the Electoral College is a racist relic and it is time to move ahead with abolishing this outdated system, as it not only distorts popular will but heightens public mistrust in American democracy. Yet abolishing it will be difficult given that the same power it grants to less-populous states is also imbued into the institutions required to get rid of it: the United States Constitution and Senate. Simply put, the requirement of a two-thirds majority within the Senate to amend the Constitutional framework behind the Electoral College would be an uphill battle. Moreover, it’s highly unlikely that politicians belonging to smaller states—that reap the benefits from anti-majoritarian institutions—would willingly surrender such political power in the first place.

With this in mind, the Electoral College is reflective of our founding fathers’ fear of direct democracy. In order to rectify this unjust system, we must begin with changing electoral votes to electoral points, thereby rewarding each candidate a percentage of points based on the percentage of popular votes received in each state. Therefore, effectively eliminating the winner take-all system and allowing all votes to carry the same weight. Ultimately, the Electoral College is an assault on our democracy and justice will only prevail once power has been restored to the American people.

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The History of the Word “Bitch” and Its Inherent Subordinating Nature

By: Cecilia Nguyen

I’ve been called a “bitch” multiple times. At times, I would even embrace it– I mean, why should I feel belittled for taking lead in a group project or for standing my ground? However, after listening to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech on the House floor in response to Rep. Ted Yoho calling her a “f****** b****,” all I felt was anger. “Bitch” is an incredibly derogatory slur, but like many other women, AOC was not phased or surprised by the insult. That is not okay. 

Where does the word “bitch” come from? It originally referred to a female dog, but as early as the 15th century, it became a term to degrade and insult women. Back then, it carried a promiscuous connotation, similar to phrases like “slut” and “whore” today. The insult also was used to associate divine and powerful women (Artemis and Diana) with sexually depraved beasts, in which their followers were described by the phrase “son of a bitch.” 

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that “bitch” was used as a word for men to describe bothersome and annoying women. In the 70s, its usage rose in popularity again, specifically in the music industry. Resulting from the second-wave feminism movement, for the first time, women started to embrace the word as a term of empowerment (check out the “The Bitch Manifesto” by Jo Freeman).

Nonetheless, “bitch” still embodied misogyny and hate throughout the 80s and mid 90s, and not many women were eager to take pride in being one. It wasn’t until the late 90s and early 2000s that women started to reclaim “bitch” to describe a powerful, independent and ambitious woman that voiced her opinions and made decisions for herself, in part due to public figures like Madonna and Britney Spears.

Today, “bitch” comes in many forms and variations; it’s everywhere. In pop culture, the word is used in song lyrics, TikTok trends, and TV shows. In politics, it’s used to belittle women in positions of power. For some women, it’s a term to greet their closest friends. For others, it’s a harmless and recurrent slang term. Despite what people may think, however, its subordinate nature has not changed.

In many, if not all, instances, “bitch” creates an imbalanced power dynamic and enforces society’s preference of what is deemed as “masculine.” For example, by calling an inanimate object or intangible idea a “bitch,” such as “That exam was a bitch” or “Life’s a bitch,” “bitch” is seen as something that needs to be controlled or dominated. Another example is when “bitch” is used with a possessive adjective, such as “my bitch,” “his bitch” or “her bitch.” In this case, “bitch” is used as a way to describe someone who might be submissive or vulnerable, making “feminine” traits inferior. Most notably, “bitch” is often used to degrade men of their masculinity and to insult women who are seen as emasculating which again, enforces the patriarchy.

Let’s talk about the reclamation of “bitch.” Many women, including myself, have now used “bitch” among each other in a friendly and positive way, under the intent and belief that it empowers us. But, just as much as we use it to uplift the women around us, we (and men) also use it to demean women.

“Bitch” holds no genuine power, and its misogynistic origin is still present in its usage today. When used by women and sometimes men, it usually refers to another woman that is manipulative, back-stabbing or stuck-up. In other instances, men use the word to describe a woman who is misbehaving and subject to violence. Men aren’t afraid to use “bitch,” and rarely are they ever called out for using it. The frequent usage normalizes “bitch” and in turn, normalizes patriarchal and sexist language.

If “bitch” doesn’t challenge the patriarchy and sexism in our society, how can we say we are reclaiming the word? If we want to reclaim “bitch,” we need to stop using it to insult other women and hold men accountable for using it. Otherwise, this false sense of empowerment only sets us up to continue living in a society where it is okay to degrade women. 

Now, I’m not saying you have to completely stop using “bitch;” for me, it’s been a part of my everyday language. I’ve used it to greet people, uplift women, express my anger, and describe my frustration, but maybe its normalization and common usage, in addition to its multiple meanings, is why this isn’t spoken about enough. Words hold immense power, and it’s important to acknowledge and reflect on the language we use.

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The USPS and the Delivery of Democracy

By: Atmanah Parab

The spread of the Coronavirus has forced a reevaluation of society at large for many. Among the myriad of questions being asked, one that stands out is: what is an essential service? What is a service so valuable that its provision trumps protection of health, safety and the bottom line? With an election, medicine deliveries and affordable shipping on the line, the USPS emerges as an example. Due to the fact that it is a service of massive value to Americans, its dissolution could be another nail in the coffin of American democracy. 

In the era of online communication, physical mail can feel antiquated and maybe even unneeded but the reality is that physical mail and services like the United States Postal Service are of vital importance to the function of the nation. However, the future of the USPS is highly uncertain between the unprecedented attack of COVID-19, restrictive legislation that weakens its functionality and the general neglect and dismissal from the Trump Administration. Not everything can be run as a business where the primary standard for value is profit and avoiding debt, and the USPS is one of the only egalitarian services offered by the United States government. 

As an article from The Economist puts it, the USPS is suffering “one acute and two chronic” ailments. The “acute” one being the exposure of USPS employees to Coronavirus resulting in tens of thousands of quarantined workers and in some cases, death. In addition to this, the threat of COVID-19 and the limitations placed upon the normal operations of businesses have resulted in less mail, exacerbating the trend of consistent financial losses by the USPS. 

The “chronic” issues with the USPS are structural and widespread patterns in function, that have only been worsening over time. First, the decline of first-class mail –“the most popular and economical way to send standard postcards, letters, large envelopes, and small packages”–is one of the most obvious issues for the USPS. With the advent of the internet, it is less efficient and more costly to communicate through mail. Second, the USPS has struggled as its services are gradually outpaced by technology but the agency is one of the most favored parts of the United States government. Despite being clearly valued by Americans, legislation and financial regulation has served to punish the USPS for its struggle to stay afloat and limit its function even further. An example of a bill passed in 2006 that requires the agency to provide for retiree healthcare up to decades in advance, this places a great deal of financial stress on the agency. 

There has been a historic movement to defund or privatize the USPS and orient its structure towards generating a profit rather than providing service the way it does. However, if the USPS and its status has been an issue warranting concern for decades, why is its current status so precarious? A recent and alarming continuation in this vein are the rhetoric espoused and actions taken by the Trump Administration in regards to the USPS. In the past month or so, Trump has gone from dismissing the USPS as “a joke” to blatantly admitting that the defunding of the USPS will have a derailing effect on the 2020 election to the random removal of mail processing machines in key states. When economic supplement funds were allocated to businesses and government entities alike to soften the blow of COVID-19 through the CARES Act, the proposed infusion into the USPS was cut down and debt relief was denied. In addition to this, the newly appointed Postmaster General has implemented several changes that have contributed to further degradation of services, “Internal Postal Service documents obtained by The Washington Post show that postal employees have been barred from working overtime hours and instructed to leave mail behind if it is processed late.” 

However, the point at which these delays become especially terrifying and apparent is when the 2020 election is concerned. Due to COVID-19 the safest way to cast a ballot (and hopefully the most popular way) is to mail it in. However, if the USPS is being purposefully hindered to the point of delay during regular volume mail traffic, the election could be a set up for disaster. It is also worth noting that due to the hyper-politicized nature of discourse about the coronavirus that people more likely to use absentee ballots as opposed to showing up to physically vote lean towards certain party identifications and demographics. These specific inclinations follow existing trends of wherein certain populations (conservative, older, rural etc.) are more likely to vote and not have their votes suppressed through the disproportionality of the electoral system, voter ID laws and systematic disenfranchisement. What’s worse is that there is an existing precedent of mail-in-ballots being arbitrarily discounted. That being said, to counter this effect and ensure democratic expression, voters who wish to vote by mail-in-ballot must be conscious of delivery times and send their ballots off far in advance. Other advice floating around the internet advises the determined voter to drop off their mail-in-ballots in person and to go as far as to get in contact with election supervisors to minimize the effects of Trump’s attacks on the USPS. 

Beyond the 2020 election, the USPS is integral to the function of this nation. Certain rural communities and regions are only brought mail, medicine and deliveries due to the USPS’s extensive service network. The absence of this agency or weakening to the point where more and more offices are forced to shut down will actively end chains of communication and medical delivery in places like Alaska. Even private alternatives such as UPS and FEDEX are significantly more expensive and often hand off their “hard to deliver” items off to the USPS as a national connector. In the absence of the USPS small businesses will likely suffer most with the lack of affordable delivery services. It is truly unfortunate but, the USPS, one of the largest forces that works to equalize a country that seems to be fracturing at the seams is now under attack.

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The “B” Word: Why You Shouldn’t Bark Bitch

By: Natalie Lopez

Bitch. The word that began from the reference to a female dog has evolved. Now, it serves as a high and vulgar insult directed towards women. The use of the word held the intention that comparing one to a dog would create a ridicule of a person. A female dog made that matter more de-masculating and thus humiliating in its original connotation.

In modern conversations, bitch has steered from comparison to a dog and has created its own negative connotation. This determined identity of a “bitch” is what others refer to when attempting to demean the power and ability of a woman through intimidation. The improper use of the word has created identity traits that misogynists use to emasculate women’s accomplishments. For example, in the occurrence that a woman reaches a position of leadership and acts on it, they label them a bitch to demean and belittle their success. While society would look up to a man in the same position, they refer to a woman as a bitch.

The most recent victim called a bitch for doing the same exact job a man is doing is the Democrat Representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When Republican Representative from Florida, Ted Yoho, accosted Representative Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the capitol, it was not a new experience for her. She recalls in her address to Yoho’s actions that she had experienced men harass her in previous positions in restaurants, bars and in general life as a woman in a busy city. Men who treat women to this language are too often forgiven and exonerated from any repercussions for far too long. 

In her speech, Representative Ocasio-Cortez recognizes this and blames the commonality of it on the current culture that permits this behavior . “It is cultural,” she stated, “It is a culture of a lack of impunity, of acceptance of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that.” As long as other men do not hold accountability within their social groups, and as long as women stay silent and remiss about these verbal accostings, we are tackling another barrier that exists to divide gender equality. 

Yoho, in his response to Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s speech, accounted his respect towards women stemming from the fact that he was a father and husband who needed to be aware of the language choices he made. Yoho never acknowledged how degrading his remark had been or how sexist he had acted towards a young, talented Latinx politician in a very sexist arena. Instead Yoho chose to announce that he would, “conduct [him]self from a place of passion,” a passion that he could not apologize for. Upon listening to Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s impassioned speech, Yoho must have decided that he did hold respect for women because he lived with them, and that’s another issue.

Men like Yoho, who choose to hide behind the women they love, claim they are not sexist because they respect the women in their lives. This didn’t translate very well for Yoho. It’s possible that he is not using the same language he used towards Representative Ocasio-Cortez at home, but so long as he calls someone a bitch, he is not supporting the women in his life from men, like him, who negate women’s fair treatment. 

What we shouldn’t misunderstand is that not all use of the word is wrong. Women have been reclaiming the word in an attempt to take back a harassing term and use it to empower themselves. Where women choose to call themselves a bitch, it’s not exactly how Yoho chose to address Representative Ocasio-Cortez. Women have been reclaiming the word through a new assigned definition that calls a strong woman, one who is owning her power and ability, a boss bitch. Women and people who choose to should hold the ability to reform the misuse of the word bitch, but not continue to use it as a form of bullying and belittling. The men who bark bitch are the reason women are reclaiming this negative derogation in the first place, bitch is a word that should never have been transformed to fight women.

All cuss words stem from derogatory terms directed to minority groups. Bitch in particular holds a special place among these words because it is so commonly overused without much insight to the abasement it pushes. Because it’s not just being called a Bitch that should anger you, it’s the fact that women are being degraded and disrespected so publicly and commonly while society has chosen to ignore it.

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What’s Happening in Lebanon?

By: Sarah Ansari

Early in the morning last week, I opened up Instagram to mindlessly scroll through memes and came across a recording of a Tik Tok video. The girl in it smiled, looking as though she were about to break into song. She just made her way outside when something on the horizon caught her attention. Her eyes widened for a brief moment before she turned and ran back into the house. Her formerly amiable expression contorted to one of fear as she screamed. 

The explosion in Beirut, caught live. 

Lebanon has been caught in the crossfires of humanitarian, political, and economic crises, and to protestors, the explosion is yet another sign of governmental neglect and corruption. The ammonium nitrate that caused the explosion had been impounded as cargo back in 2013, and although worries were voiced about the safety of the chemicals, no action was taken by officials to address the concerns. Blame for the tragedy was passed around, with no one wanting to bear the brunt of responsibility(*1).

In the streets, the righteous anger of protestors steeped to an inferno. Security forces were sent to quell the protests, and videos circling online display an excessive use of force– particularly tear gas and rubber bullets– by the dispatched units (*2). The brutality used by security forces on protestors displays the intention of the government to silence rather than to listen.

But how could a government not expect retaliation from its people when it boasts a 25% unemployment rate, pervasive poverty, a trash crisis, lack of clean drinking water, and unreliable power? All these issues existed before the worldwide spread of the coronavirus and have only been aggravated since. The devaluation of the Lebanese pound and poorly-dealt with wildfires only fueled the growing resentment for the government(*3). Meanwhile, the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics prevented any decisive maneuvers to address the people’s concerns. 

With eighteen religious groups dividing power based on their population, and the inability to make any “major decisions [..] without the consent of all major religious communities, even the election losers”(*4), the political atmosphere within Lebanon remains stagnant and prone to the decay which it is and has been experiencing. Think of the deadlocks that can come with a divided Congress in the U.S., but multiply the discordant parties by nine. Without major reforms to the political system, the troubles in Lebanon will continue to grow, since the government will spend more time debating than fixing the issues. However, to bring about changes to the distribution of power and to hold officials accountable for their actions, the same officials have to agree to the reforms, something which they have had little incentive to do until recently (*5).

Following the explosion in Beirut, calls for the prime minister, Hassan Diab’s, resignation multiplied, and finally culminated in the resignation of himself and his cabinet on Monday, August 10. In an interview with npr (*6), blogger Gino Raidy discussed the incompetence the Lebanese government displayed following the blast, and noted that “the people […] took charge of the search and rescue, the relief effort, fundraising, and campaigning”. In other words, the resignation of the current officials places Lebanon in the same state they were in before; reforms and other efforts (humanitarian, environmental, etc.) are spearheaded by the people, rather than their representatives. 

Raidy does mention the near-certainty of widespread reform now that the government has been dismantled, although if foreign aid gets funneled through the officials, funds will likely go directly into their pockets, rather than to rebuilding and rehousing efforts. Because of this, the humanitarian aid offered to Lebanon comes on the condition that definitive reforms are made to combat the issues discussed earlier (*7). With the stage set for the reconstruction of the Lebanese government, the actions taken now, at this tipping point, will decide the country’s future.

If you wish to send aid to Lebanon, make sure to donate to the Lebanese Red Cross. Various people from Lebanon have said online that it is the most reliable organization to ensure humanitarian aid goes directly to the people.

SOURCES/FOOTNOTES:

This article acts primarily as a simplified overview of what’s happening in Lebanon for people who are unfamiliar with the crises. For further reading into the cited issues, I recommend reading through these articles, which discuss the issues in more depth.

  1. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/07/899776352/beiruts-explosion-looks-like-an-accident-and-a-sign-of-the-country-s-collapse
  2. https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/lebanon-protests
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53390108
  4. https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-02-22/why-lebanese-politics-are-so-messed
  5. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/lebanon-pm-hassan-diab-resigns-anger-beirut-blast-200810135202076.html
  6. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/10/901064416/lebanese-government-resigns-in-response-to-protests-over-explosion-in-beirut
  7. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-security-blast/change-needed-in-lebanon-after-beirut-blast-says-german-foreign-minister-idUSKCN258189